Overhauling Russia's child welfare system: institutional and ideational factors behind the paradigm shift

Kulmala, M., Rasell, M. and Chernova, Z. (2017) Overhauling Russia's child welfare system: institutional and ideational factors behind the paradigm shift. Zhurnal Issledovanii Sotsial'noi Politiki, 15 (3). pp. 353-366. ISSN 1727-0634

Full content URL: https://jsps.hse.ru/article/view/7038/7537

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This article studies the causal factors behind the major overhaul of Russia's system for children in substitute care that has been taking place since the late 2000's. A series of reforms have promoted fostering and family-like care in contrast to the large residential homes used in the Soviet period and 1990's. We highlight the fundamental change in the 'ideal of care' represented by the move to 'deinstitutionalise' the care system by promoting domestic adoptions, increasing the number of foster families, creating early support services for families as well as restructuring remaining residential institutions into smaller, home-like environments. These are all key elements of the global deinstitutionalisation trend that is taking place around the globe. We look at the evolution of the related policies and ask why this policy shift happened during the 2010's even though the issue of reform had partially been on the Russian policy agenda for some time. Building on an explanatory approach to family policy changes by Magritta Mäztke and Ilona Ostner, which incorporates material and ideational driving forces, we explain that the 'political will from above' behind these major reforms was shaped by a range of other societal and political factors. Multiple factors drove Russian political actors to adopt new ideas about care for children left without parental care. For instance, the increasing conservative turn in policies towards children and families, which are driven by the severe demographic decline in the country, work alongside the influence of international norms around children's rights and changing socio-economic circumstances. In the 1990's Russian NGOs had considerable input into the reforms as 'epistemic communities' in policy formation thanks to the high level of expertise that they developed in international networks and the increasing number of cross-sector consultative platforms at governmental bodies in contemporary Russia. We conclude that ideational factors were necessary preconditions for the reforms, but that political forces were ultimately the key driving force. The recentralisation of power and prioritisation of social policy under President Putin allowed new ideas to gain concrete policy realisation. © The Journal of Social Policy Studies.

Keywords:Child welfare
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Health & Social Care
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ID Code:29184
Deposited On:14 Nov 2017 14:31

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